ARC REVIEW: Small Spaces – by Katherine Arden

Title: Small Spaces
(Small Spaces #1)

Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: MG, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: September 25th 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: July 16th 2019
Pages: 224

“Even bad things can lead to good.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been meaning to try Katherine Arden‘s work for a long time now… It’s true that I was planning to read the Winternight trilogy first, but I simply couldn’t resist the sound of this middle grade paranormal horror story when I saw it on Twitter. The grey and cold weather we are facing down here was the perfect backdrop for Small Spaces, a story that it set close to Halloween and gives off that creepy and dark October vibe. Although it shows that Small Spaces written for younger middle graders, it’s probably still a fun read for the older half of the target group as well. The key is in the story giving off the right horror vibe with the help of the descriptions… Although I wish there would have more dept and development in both the worldbuilding and characters, I really liked the idea behind Small Spaces. Ollie is without doubt an interesting character, and it’s understandable why she has the leading role in this first book of the series. It’s true I would have loved to see her character more developed, but she did grow over time and I enjoyed learning more about her relationship with her parents. The writing is engaging and makes you fly through the pages… I did find some of the dialogue to be too childish and not all that natural, but overall Small Spaces was still an interesting read. The story in the book Ollie snatched from the mysterous lady, the mist, the disappearances, the situation Ollie, Coco and Brian find themselves in afterwards… They all give off that paranormal horror and ghost vibe that is both properly creepy while still being appropriate for the target group. Small Spaces is without doubt a story that would be perfect addition for your Halloween month TBR.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #112 – Ivory And Bone & House Of Furies

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA fantasy read, one that sadly ended up disappointing me and one that definitely hit the mark. The writing style, POV and dull plot turned Ivory And Bone by Julie Eshbaugh into a struggle for me… House Of Furies by Madeleine Roux on the other hand was creepy, intriguing and very easy to read.


Title: Ivory And Bone
(Ivory And Bone #1)
Author: Julie Eshbaugh

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 5th 2019
Pages: 384

“It’s strange how living things seem to shrink when the life is drained from them.”


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I’ve had Ivory And Bone on my radar for a long time now… Despite the mixed reviews I decided to give this story a chance anyway, mostly because I don’t come across pre-historic settings that often and the premise sounded fascinating. I still think the pre-historic timeframe is the most interesting aspect of this story, and I don’t think I would have made it to the last page without it. Oh yes, sadly I belong to the group that didn’t react well to Ivory And Bone. I’ll try to explain briefly why. A lot of my reaction to the story has to do with the fact that part of it is told from a second person POV. I had forgotten how much I despised this technique and I only refrained from DNFing because thankfully it was only used when Kol was talking about or interacting with Mya. Still, I feel I would have enjoyed the story significantly better if it would have used a third or even first person POV instead. Apart from the POV, I found the plot of Ivory And Bone to be rather dull and uneventful during mosty of the story. Which was a huge surprise, considering the pre-historic setting and the situation between the clans. The focus of the story was mostly on daily life within the clans and the whole romance/having to find a mate ordeal. To make things even worse, we even have to deal with a love triangle as well… But at least the romance is mainly slowburn. We do have a bit more action in the second half of the story, but overall I found the plot too slow and too uneventful to keep my attention. I wish I would have loved Ivory And Bone, but sadly we weren’t ment to be…


Title: House Of Furies
(House Of Furies #1)
Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: July 7th 2019
Pages: 416

“They do not know why they come, but they do, and once they step through the doors, their fate is sealed.”


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My first meeting with the work of Madeleine Roux was with the Asylum series, and I loved my time with those books. I’ve been wanting to pick up House Of Furies ever since… And I thought a dark and cold winter day would be a perfect alternative for the Halloween month to finally pick this paranormal horror/fantasy read up. This new series is without doubt another excellent creation! In fact, I think I might like it even more than the Asylum books… Both the historical setting in general and the descriptions are detailed and give the story the right eery and haunted atmosphere. I think part of the success of this story is the 1810 setting in the Coldthistle House and the sheer creepiness of it all. The writing itself was engaging and made me fly through this story in no time at all. The mystery around the Coldthistle House and its inhabitants is well handled and the not knowing exactly what is going on only adds suspense to the story. We have regular criminals as well as the supernatural incorporated into the plot, and I personally loved the little folklore stories as found in Mr. Morningside’s book. There is no doubt that House Of Furies would make a perfect Halloween read and I’m already looking forward to read the sequel! Because there is one thing for sure: the first book leaves the ending wide open and you will be left craving answers.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #110 – Jar Of Hearts & The Problem With Forever

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two books written by a Jennifer and both with trigger warning worthy topics, although they do belong to two completely different genres. The first is a brutal thriller and a title I’ve been wanting to read ever since it came out a year ago: Jar Of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier. The second was a TBR jar pick and my first experience with Jennifer L. Armentrout‘s work… Although I can’t say it was a positive experience. Unpopular opinion review ahead!


Title: Jar Of Hearts
Author: Jennifer Hillier 

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 12th 2018
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: June 27th 2019
Pages: 320

“In every story, there’s a hero and villain. Sometimes one person can be both.”


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Jar Of Hearts has been on my radar ever since I first heard about it last year, and all those raving reviews I’ve been seeing have only made me want to read it even more. Why did I wait this long to finally pick it up then? Good question, and to be honest I have no idea why exactly. The fact is that I’m now kicking myself for waiting this long to read Jar Of Hearts and I definitely understand the love for this story now. What a twisted and fascinating ride! While it’s true that there were a few minor things that prevented me from handing out the full five stars, there is no denying that both the premise and plot itself are absolutely brilliant. There is nothing ordinary about Jar Of Hearts and you will have to brace yourself for a very intense ride. Trigger warnings for abuse, rape, graphic scenes and violence are in place and if you have weak stomach it’s probably best to avoid this story… But if you enjoy a good complex and twisted thriller, you will be in for a treat with Jar Of Hearts. Why complex? Well, you will get a variety of different elements and storylines in one giant package with this story. You have the storyline set in the past where the main characters were still teenagers and Angela disappears. That part almost read like a teen angst story with a violent twist and wasn’t my favorite part of the story to be honest. Then we have the part set during the trial and then Geo’s time in prison, which is probably my favorite part of the story and I love how this storyline was developed. Then we have the present, where Geo is out of prison and things are escalating. Without doubt interesting as well, although I’m not sure about the credibility of some aspects of the plot in general and I wasn’t sure I actually liked the ending as it felt a bit too ‘neat’. I can’t deny this was still a fascinating and pretty brutal story that I will stay with me for quite some time.


Title: The Problem With Forever
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 17th 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Finished reading: June 28th 2019
Pages: 480

“Words were never the problem. I had them, always had them, but it was plucking the words out and putting a voice to them that had always been tricky.”


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WARNING: unpopular opinion review ahead.

There is a reason I’ve been posponing my first meeting with Jennifer L. Armentrout‘s books, and it has a lot to do with the fact that a combination contemporary romance AND a hyped book is normally a sign of trouble for me. I should have listened to my instinct instead of to my TBR jar, because sadly The Problem With Forever weren’t ment to be. Before I start explaining why, let us all take a moment to appreciate that absolutely gorgeous cover… Ok, ready? First of all I want to state that I’m happy so many people seem to love this story, but sadly there were a lot of reasons why The Problem With Forever didn’t work for me personally. I’ll try to keep my rambles short so it won’t turn into a fullblown rant…

Let’s start with the basics. I personally found The Problem With Forever to be overlong and as a consequence the story dragged in various parts… I even found myself skimreading at times and that is never a good sign. The skimreading also had a lot to do with the romance though. Not only is there a love triangle, I also found the romance in general to be rather cringe-worthy and unbelievable, especially in the case of Mallory’s character. As you can guess, this was a mayor turn off for me… Likewise, I had serious issues with the main characters in general. While Mallory’s PSTD condition and her issues with speaking are interesting, I feel like she is mostly turned into a cliche; her whole personality is basically build on her speaking issues and she lacked development as a whole. A lot of cliches are involved when it comes to the characters in general… Seriously, why do they all have to be gorgeous?! And the whole ‘poor Latin character’ reference and everything related to Hector and his family is basically an insult. And what about the Spanish? Seriously, saying that they know something is ‘Puerto Rican’ based on a few words is absolutely ridiculous and people don’t talk like that at all… Ugh. There are other issues to address as well, but I will leave it at this as my rambles are already turning into a rant as it is. Let’s just say that The Problem With Forever has an overdose of high school cliches and didn’t feel realistic at all; on top of that we have to deal with a love triangle and what is basically an overlong story… And I’m not even talking about the constant drama everywhere. Oh yes, this story and me definitely didn’t get along… I did warn you this was going to be another unpopular opinion review though. 😉


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YVO’S SHORTIES #106 – Queens Of Geek & The Weight Of Feathers

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two YA stories I had been meaning to read for a while and both ended up enjoying a lot. Queens Of Geek by Jen Wilde turned out to be absolutely adorkable and The Weight Of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore is such a beautiful read!


Title: Queens Of Geek
Author: Jen Wilde

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 14th 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Finished reading: June 9th 2019
Pages: 269

“I’m a perfectly normal Aspie girl. I just feel broken because I’m trying to fit into a nonautistic world. I’m a square peg trying to squeeze myself into a round hole.”


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While it’s not my usual genre, I like mixing things up and sometimes I’m just in the mood for a sweet contemporary read. I’ve been hearing lots of wonderful things about Queens Of Geek and thought Pride month would be the perfect excuse to finally pick up this title. After a bout of thrillers, I was fully ready for a dose of fluffy and adorable and I had a feeling this title would fit the bill. I mean, the blurb gives the promise of a whole lot of geekiness, an autism rep and a convention setting; what more could I wish for? I can confirm it now: Queen Of Geek is an absolutely adorkable read. So cute! So fluffy! I love my geeky characters and you will get a whole lot of them as basically every single one of the main characters fits the description. The story is set at the Supacon convention after all, so this doesn’t come as a surprise… The setting plays a key role during the whole story and is without doubt one of the reasons this story is such a success. The different fandoms, the interaction between fans and creators, the merch, the contests… You will find a lot of references throughout. The characters are supereasy to like and it won’t be long before they steal your heart and run away with it. Queens Of Geek has a dual POV, where we switch between Charlie and Taylor. Both are well developed, quirky and unique characters with their own problems, visions and dreams. I had a great time seeing them grow and evolve during the story… It’s true that there are quite a few cliches involved, both romantic and otherwise, but somehow the characters and story itself were able to get away with it. I did feel there were almost too many inspirational messages included (don’t get me wrong, I loved those messages and applaude positivity, but it started to come over as a bit preachy after a while). Still, I had a wonderful time reading Queens Of Geek and its characters will definitely stay with me for quite some time.


Title: The Weight Of Feathers
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Genre: YA, Romance, Magical Realism
First published: September 15th 2015
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Finished reading: June 14th 2019
Pages: 320

“His feathers marked him as a Corbeau the way her escamas marked her as a Paloma. The things they wore on their bodies made them as distinct as water and sky.”


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I’ve been meaning to read The Weight Of Feathers for a while now… I know magical realism can go both ways for me, but there was just something about the blurb that caught my eye straight way. I’m happy I finally got the chance to read it, because I fell in love with both the writing and the story itself. It’s such a beautiful and well crafted story! It’s magical realism, but not too ‘heavy’ to distract or complicate you… Instead, you will find yourself mesmerized by the lives of the Corbeau and Paloma families and their performances. There is a hint of the magic, but mostly The Weight Of Feathers is a classic forbidden love story where two characters of rival families fall in love against all odds. The story is told with the help of a dual POV, switching back and forth between Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau… This way, we learn more about both families and their performances. I loved the symbolism of the mermaids and the Corbeau act with their feather wings; water and air, opposite but beautiful in their own way. Each chapter started with a phrase in Spanish (Paloma) or French (Corbeau), which was a nice touch although I could spot quite a few errors in both foreign text and translation (a shame, since it would have been easy to check and correct, but that’s probably just the philologist in me talking). French and Spanish expressions are also sometimes used in the text itself, giving the story an authentic feel and adding to the atmosphere. Lace and Cluck are both quite easy to like, but while Lace sometimes frustrated me, it was Cluck who I wanted to adopt and save from his life with the Corbeaus. Such a wonderful character! And while the whole forbidden love elements can become a bit cheesy, I did enjoy how it was developed in The Weight Of Feathers. The ending is also beautiful and I loved the symbolism used! It’s true the magical realism might not be for everyone, but I suggest giving this story a go anyway as it’s absolutely beautiful.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Disappeared – by Amy Lord #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Disappeared Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I think 1984 is one of my favorite dystopian classics along with Fahrenheit 451, so the promise of another dystopian bookish story instantly made me curious. I was definitely happy with what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Disappeared.

Title: The Disappeared
Author: Amy Lord
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2019
Publisher: Unbound
Finished reading: May 27th 2019
Pages: 368

“Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world. They give us a voice. They are fundamental to our being. We shouldn’t have to live without them.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are among my favorite dystopian classics and I love books about books in general, so it’s easy to understand that when I read the blurb of The Disappeared I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story. I definitely don’t complain about what I found instead either… It might be true that certain aspects of the plot might not be all that original, but there is also no doubt I highly enjoyed my time with The Disappeared. If you enjoy dystopian fiction with a bookish focus, you will be in for a treat with this story.

The Disappeared is set in a near future alternative UK where a new government is in power and controls absolutely everything. Think 1984, think censorship and being forbidden to read certain books or having thoughts that are against the government. The story is set in a terrifying alternative world where there are almost no books, no phones or modern gadgets and people are forced to live in tiny apartments and are no longer allowed luxury… Unless they form part of the new government of course. This contrast between this ‘elite’ life and the rest of the population is a big one, and is described very well with the help of the main character’s mother. The stark contrast between the different lifestyles is showed in Clara’s mom, particularly in how she had to make a choice after Clara’s dad was taken away all those years ago. It’s true that she lives in luxury now, but it came at a price… And would that price be worth it? Clara herself never accepted the new situation and was soon shipped off to boarding school in Scotland. This is yet another example of this contrast as ‘normal’ difficult people tend to disappear into thin air rather than relocated to a remote but safe location.

The story is told in different times and with different perspectives, and that way we learn more about past and present and how things came to be. As always, the younger generation doesn’t really remember the situation before the drastic changes. And with the censorship oppressing free thought, the new generation is not able to learn about it either if they don’t want to be in danger of being taken away. This danger is always present and one wrong thought or word can be your end… As is shown in examples throughout the story. Clara is of course aware of this danger as well, but even though she knows the consequences she is determined to rebel and go against the government anyway.

It’s true that some dystopian cliches are involved and not all aspects of the plot are all that original, but overall it didn’t distract too much. The Disappeared has some pretty brutal moments, especially those related to the interrogation and torture scenes. Action scenes are mixed with slower and more psychological ones, but well enough balanced to keep you going. I’m not sure if the ending was all that credible as things were wrapped up a little too conveniently. Still, there is no doubt that The Disappeared is a very interesting debut that pictures a terrifying alternative world we will hopefully never encounter ourselves. Imagine not being able to read your own books anymore!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from nort-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

 


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YVO’S SHORTIES #104 – And The Ocean Was Our Sky & The Thirteenth Tale

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories belonging to completely different genres, but both were excellent reads. And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness has the most beautiful illustrations and a very interesting retelling of the Moby Dick classic. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield might have a slow pace, but the story itself is one that will stay with me for quite some time.


Title: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: September 4th 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: May 30th 2019
Pages: 160

“Here is the truth behind the myth: all men are Toby Wick. For who needs devils when you have men?”


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I’ve been excited about this title ever since it was published last year, especially since I kept seeing photos of the illustrations and they looked absolutely gorgeous. Now I’ve had the chance to read And The Ocean Was Our Sky, I still believe the illustrations are the true power behind the story. They really take the writing to the next level and turn this story into something special; it wouldn’t have been the same without them. As for the story itself: I admit things can get a bit confusing and sometimes it felt more magical realism than a fantasy retelling, but overall I really liked how Patrick Ness turned the original Moby Dick story into something completely new and original. The idea of the whales and men both roaming the seas and hunting each other is fascinating. Even more intriguing is that the main focus is on the whales, and their world is basically upside down. Bathsheba is a very interesting character and basically the one to challenge the world as they know it and also the one trying to understand men instead of just trying to fight them. Not much is told about Toby Wick, adding to his mystery and myth while also adding intrigue to the story. And The Ocean Was Our Sky is without doubt a story you won’t come across every day and it might not be for everyone, but there is one thing for sure: the illustrations are absolutely wonderful.


Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 12th 2006
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 31st 2019
Pages: 416

“A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else’s story.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up The Thirteenth Tale for years now, but it was simply one of those titles that kept slipping between the cracks of my enormous TBR mountain… I’m glad I was finally able to dig it out and read it though. It was my first experience with Diane Setterfield‘s work and I already know it won’t be my last. What a wonderful and atmospheric way of describing the setting and characters! The Thirteenth Tale has that gothic feel and the fact that you don’t know exactly when the story is set makes it all the more intriguing. A lot of speculation about the time period can be found on the internet, but there seems to be no clear winner and I like how it leaves the answer wide open for each reader to decide on their own. It’s true that the pace can be considerably slow at points and there are parts where nothing much is happening, but the power of The Thirteenth Tale is in the different characters, their development and their role in the story of famous author Vida Winter. Both the Angelfield house and family give off that creepy and gothic vibe and there are some moments that will make your hair stand on end. I like how Margaret not just believes everything Vida Winter tells her (especially with her history of lying), but instead starts her own investigation as well. Past and present are mixed and fully intertwined in such a way that the separation becomes liquid and all characters fully come alive. The Thirteenth Tale has secrets, twists and turns to reveal and some you definitely won’t see coming. But like I said before, the power behind this story is in the characters and fantastic descriptions, and fans of slower, atmospheric and character-driven historical fiction will love The Thirteenth Tale. Bonus: there are a lot of bookish references to be found including classics like Jane Eyre!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #102 – The Sleep Tight Motel & The Last Of August

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a thriller novella and a YA contemporary read… The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger turned out to be short, but very entertaining, while The Last Of August by Brittany Cavallaro ended up being mostly a disappointment. Find out more about the why below.


Title: The Sleep Tight Motel
(Dark Corners Collection #2)
Author: Lisa Unger

Genre: Short Stories, Thriller, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Finished reading: May 18th 2019
Pages: 48

“Why do we celebrate the monsters, the destroyers, the killers among us? Me, I prefer to run away. As fast and as far as I can get.”


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I know I don’t read a lot of short stories, but I’ve enjoyed Lisa Unger‘s writing in the past and The Sleep Tight Motel fitted a couple of challenge prompts… Making it easy to make an exception and give it a go. Between the cover and blurb I knew I was in for a creepy read, and I can say this short story would have been a perfect fit for the Halloween month. What starts out as a simple crime thriller with the main character on the run and hiding from someone, turns out to be so much more by the time you reach the final page… I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say you won’t see the final twists coming at all. The Sleep Tight Motel is well written and has a lot of different elements included successfully for such a short story. If you enjoy creepy reads with an eery setting and a surprising twist, The Sleep Tight Motel reads like a nice little snack in between other books.


Title: The Last Of August
(Charlotte Holmes #2)
Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Finished reading: May 21st 2019
Pages: 326

“I’ve always wanted to be invisible, and because I want to be, it’s impossible.”


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I admit it’s been a long time since I read the first book (almost three years; oops?), but I still remember I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to spend time with this Sherlock Holmes retelling sequel. What I definitely didn’t expect is that I almost ended up DNFing The Last Of August. Oh yes, sadly this Charlotte Holmes sequel turned out to be a huge disappointment for me. Why? Well, the first mayor obstacle is that about 90% of the story is filled with a frustrating love triangle, a whole lot of ‘does he/she love me?’ and ‘I don’t know what to do with my feelings’ and basically an overdose of teen angst in general. This is a huge turn off for me any day, but even more so when you expect an entertaining Sherlock Holmes retelling filled with the well known bantering between Holmes and Watson. Instead of this, the whole investigation angle of the story has been mostly pushed in to the background, the story then focusing on the petty feelings of Holmes, Watson and August. Definitely not what I signed up for! The only thing that stopped me from just DNFing The Last Of August  was the promise of Berlin and Prague descriptions, cities I was lucky enough to visit myself last year and was hoping to revisit with the help of this story. Sadly, even those descriptions were not as present as I hoped… All in all I can’t exactly say I enjoyed my second meeting with Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, and I think I’m going to just give up on this series for now.


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